Thailand

Boxes of Sinovac's Covid-19 coronavirus CoronaVac vaccine are pictured during a vaccination drive at Bang Sue Central Station in Bangkok on 24 May 2021. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)

Sinovac or not: Thai vaccine politics

The country’s political polarisation is hindering the government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme. While China has been a keen provider of the Sinovac vaccine, currently the most widely deployed in Thailand, distrust of the Prayut government and party politics have fuelled vaccine hesitancy and the fear that this is yet another way for China to assert its influence on the country.
Morning commuters wearing face masks, amidst concerns about the Covid-19 coronavirus, ride past in Hanoi on 4 May 2021. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

Southeast Asia: A hotspot for Chinese enterprises in the post-pandemic era?

With growing competition and tension between China and the US, one region that China is looking to is Southeast Asia. Many major Chinese companies are expanding their operations into ASEAN countries, using them as manufacturing and assembly bases or springboards to the region. Zaobao's associate foreign news editor Sim Tze Wei examines the possibilities.
Workers load boxes with Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac on a truck, the first shipment vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) to arrive in the country, at Villamor Air Base in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines, 28 February 2021. (Eloisa Lopez/Reuters)

Covid-19 pandemic and China's rising soft power in mainland Southeast Asia

The Covid-19 pandemic provides a window of opportunity for China to exert its international leadership and influence. It has managed to turn the crisis into a diplomatic and strategic opportunity in mainland Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Public health diplomacy has become one of the key sources of China’s soft power projection, enhancing China’s image and influence. Cambodia and Laos have been most receptive to China’s public health diplomacy, including its vaccine diplomacy, while Thailand and Myanmar also have welcomed Chinese assistance. But Vietnam has been reluctant to endorse China’s Covid-19 assistance, including receiving Chinese vaccines.
Myanmar migrants in Thailand holds signs relating to the "Milk Tea Alliance" as they take part in a protest in Bangkok on 28 February 2021, against the military coup in their home country. (Jack Taylor/AFP)

Anti-Chinese populism on the rise in Southeast Asia?

Social media movements such as the Milk Tea Alliance are tapping into discontent with the regional decline of democracy and fears about the rise of China as a hegemonic power. ISEAS visiting fellow Quinton Temby explains why anti-China sentiments are gaining traction and how it is affecting local politics.
A view of the Mekong river bordering Thailand and Laos is seen from the Thai side in Nong Khai, Thailand, 29 October 2019. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Role of Vietnam in Mekong: A middle power in another US-China geopolitical battleground

Hanoi is applying its South China Sea playbook to the Mekong. It is putting effort into enmeshing all stakeholders while carefully balancing relationships with major powers interested in the Mekong. What does this mean for Southeast Asia and the region's relationship with China and the US? RSIS graduate research assistant Phan Xuan Dung examines how Vietnam can make a difference.
This photograph taken on 8 December 2020 shows a vendor steering her boat while looking for customers at the Damnoen Saduak floating market, nearly deserted with few tourists due to ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus travel restrictions, some 100km southwest of Bangkok. (Mladen Antonov/AFP)

What Southeast Asia wants from the impending Biden presidency

ISEAS academics Malcolm Cook and Ian Storey note that Southeast Asia would welcome a Biden administration policy towards Asia that is less confrontational and unilateralist, and firmer and more action-oriented. The region's governments prefer the new US administration to adopt a less confrontational stance towards China and lower US-China tensions. But while they welcome increased US economic and security engagement with the region, they are less enthusiastic about Biden’s emphasis on human rights and democracy.
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks during a ground breaking ceremony for the construction of a bridge across the Bassac river in Phnom Penh on 26 October 2020. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Cambodia needs to avoid putting all its eggs in the Chinese basket

Cambodia’s post-pandemic foreign policy is constrained by the need to sustain its economic growth while maintaining independence and sovereignty, amid the challenge and uncertainty caused by the growing strategic competition between China and the US. Academic Kimkong Heng says Cambodia needs to refrain from actions that appear to serve China’s core strategic interests, proactively engage all strategic partners, and walk a diplomatic tightrope between China and the US.
An aerial view of the Kra Isthmus, the narrowest point of the Malayan Peninsula where the Kra Canal would be built. (iStock)

India’s obsession with Thailand’s Kra Canal and China's 'failure'

News that Thailand has “cancelled” its Kra canal project and replaced it with a land bridge has excited Indian observers. But you cannot scrap a plan that has not been approved. India's media reports highlighting both Chinese aggression and Chinese failure say more about the country's tensions with China than its concern with the idea of a century-old canal in Thailand.
A stretch of the 400-kilometre long China-Laos railway in Vientiane, 29 July 2020. (Xinhua)

China's Belt and Road Initiative faces huge challenges in Southeast Asia

Beijing has pledged financing, materials, technology and manpower to build railroads, hydropower stations and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asian countries under the BRI. But China continues to face enormous challenges getting projects off the ground in countries that need the investment most. US academic Murray Hiebert examines why.